It’s not completely clear to me where fault lies in the death of Eric Garner, which occurred as a result of him being taken down by the police.
There were multiple contributing factors that led to his death. A mixed-race grand jury, which had information that has not yet been released, declined to indict the officer who had his arm, briefly, around Garner’s neck. Unlike even some conservatives, I can’t say I know for sure whether the grand jury made the right or the wrong decision.
For example, you may not be aware of this, but Garner actually did not expire on the scene. He died of cardiac arrest in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
I can say that it’s a tragedy and very sad that this father of six died trying to sell some cigarettes. I truly pity him and his family.
And I can also say that he died because the government was trying to forcibly compel him to obey a draconian tax law. New York City mandates a tax of $5.85 cents and a minimum price of $10.50 per pack of cigarettes.
The law is intended to reduce smoking. The studies I’ve seen say it probably does, but by how much is debatable. And there are tradeoffs.
One tradeoff is that, according to a study specifically looking at the effect of cigarette taxes in New York City, the cigarette tax is highly regressive, and that while it has an effect on smoking rates for the middle class and up, low-income earners are choosing to spend what is now a quarter of their income on cigarettes instead of quitting.
From the study:
Among adults, a 10% increase in the price of cigarettes is associated with a 3% to 5% decline in overall consumption, with approximately half of this decline resulting from smokers quitting , . However, more recent studies suggest that the effect of higher prices may be diminishing –. For example, Farrelly and colleagues  found that a 10% increase in price was associated with a 0.6% decrease in smoking prevalence among adults overall and a 2.7% decrease among young adults aged 18 to 24 . . .
Recent data suggest that while the prevalence of smoking in New York overall has decreased 20% from 2003–2004 to 2009–2010, those with household incomes less than $25,000 had no statistically significant decline (26.9% to 24.3% based on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System) . This implies that low-income smokers have not been more price responsive than smokers with higher incomes. In fact, from 2003–2004 to 2010–2011, we find that the percentage of income spent on cigarettes for smokers with annual incomes less than $30,000 more than doubled (11.6% to 23.6%). This suggests that lower income smokers in New York State have not had a greater response to higher taxes than smokers with higher incomes.
Another tradeoff is that high taxes, in this case on cigarettes, invite crime, since people will try to sell some smokes for a reasonable price illegally. And when there is crime, there is law enforcement. And when there is law enforcement, there is depravation of freedom and, in some unfortunate circumstances, death.
What liberals forget as they promulgate all these laws and regulations and taxes is that these things have to be enforced. Sometimes, rough tactics are required to enforce the law. Bringing down a 350-pound man who is resisting arrest is not easy. And now, liberals don’t like the result.
Their police state, you see, requires police.
President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder seem to be barely containing their outrage about Garner’s death. Actually, Holder doesn’t seem to be containing it at all, even though he’s supposed to be neutral when a grand jury makes a decision.
But what hasn’t occurred to them is that the government removes our liberty at its peril. Taking freedom creates many problems, including the impetus to take even more freedom.
Eric Garner died because the police, under orders from New York’s Socialist Mayor, Bill DeBlasio, were trying to take his freedom. Maybe Obama and Holder will draw a lesson about the destruction their heavy hands can cause.